Rotten: The Peanut Problem

Last week, I reviewed the new Spoking app for you guys. While exploring the app, I saw comments about a new Netflix documentary about peanut allergies. So, of course this piqued my interest.

The documentary is called Rotten. It’s a series documentary about food in North America. There’s five different episodes focussing on different aspects and areas in the food industry.

The episode in question is The Peanut Problem. Here’s a quick description of the episode via IMDB “As food allergies skyrocket, scientists race to understand what’s changed in our bodies, while farmers and chefs contend with new challenges.”

I think i’ll break this review into the same persceptive categories of the episode: farmer, chef, researcher.

Farmer

It starts off with talking to an American peanut farmer and their outlook about the ‘growing epidemic’ of peanut allergies in North America. This was really interesting. Obviously, I’ve never heard the perspective of someone who is affected by an allergy on the production side of things. However, as someone with an allergy, I found some of the things the farmers were saying to be insensitive and dramatic…

The Cox family produces more than 1 million pounds of peanuts each year. They talked about how the damaging the growing peanut allergy epidemic has and can be on their businesses. The daughter talks about how she’s worried she will never be able to take over her fathers farm because some people can’t eat her product and demonize it. This was a bit too far for me…

She also talks about the research funding they provide to different organizations who are trying to find a cure for allergies. They said it’s in everyones best interests if allergies are eradicated. This I could get on board with.

Chef

Throughout the episode, Netflix takes us behind the scenes of different trendy and popular restaurants. The restaurants are all known for accommodating allergies, and a large portion of their clientele is repeat businesses from families who know and now trust the brand because of their diligence.

One restaurant owner in Boston, MA, Ming Tsai said he would feel personally responsible for someone having an allergy attack from his food. He has a child with an allergy, and makes sure his restaurant makes accommodations for anyone who says they have an allergy. However, at one point he brings up the difference between having an allergy and having an intolerance and how this concept has effected his business. He walks us through his restaurant’s process of creating a meal for someone with an allergy. Everything is cleaned, prepped separately, and handled with care. He says it takes time, which makes sense, and therefor if people are saying they “have an allergy” when really they just don’t like a certain ingredient or have an intolerance, it can slow down the whole night. I think this concept is very interesting and I think I’ll share my thoughts on this in another post.

Researcher

The main researcher in this episode was Dr. Ruchi Gupta, M.D, M.P.H from the Lurie Children’s Hospital and Northwestern University in Chicago. Her main role in the segments were to explain how an ana. reaction works and what happens in the body. She also has a child with an allergy, so she spoke on behalf of a concerned mom. The part I questioned in these segments was the research they were doing. They support the theory of exposure. If you haven’t heard of this theory, it’s the belief that the more you expose the person with an allergy to the allergen, their allergy will go away. For me, that would mean eating a small amount of peanut butter in the hospital, having a reaction, and coming back the next week to do it again. They believe eventually, your body will stop seeing the allergen as an intruder, your body will stop attacking it, and therefore you will no longer have an allergy. I can’t quite get on board with this… but if it works for some then who am I to argue.

Overall, I think the episode was informative and gave some pretty interesting insights into the allergy world. I enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes of restaurants and how they accommodate allergies, and seeing that there are some restaurants that take special precautions. As my final note, I asked my mom to watch the documentary and about 10 minutes into it, I got a text from her saying “are you trying to make me puke”… so beware. They share a few stories about children having allergy attacks from restaurants that told them they were safe but actually weren’t. My mom didn’t like that very much.

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